Be selfish during your time in college

I’m probably the only person who will tell you this, but I think you deserve to hear it at least once. My best advice for navigating college is simple: Be selfish.

After overcoming the societal, familial and financial struggles that accompanied growing up in a poor, rural South Alabama town, I can say without a doubt that the driving force behind my academic success was my own will to power. Not to belittle the support of my family, but the journey from high school graduation to college graduation has been a constant battle for the education many students take for granted. Too often I’ve doubted my ability to even survive it at all.

In roughly two weeks, I will become the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year school. This is not a product of luck or the divine. I did that, often to the detriment of my health and for no other reason than simply because I wanted to. And if my education had suddenly stopped fulfilling me to the extent it has for the past four years, I would not have continued to sacrifice so much in its pursuit.

Loyalty to your vocation is tricky, but I think it’s necessary to recognize that in the event that you find yourself at the mercy of its demands, it does not define your identity. The nature of a career, in my experience, has been cyclic. What you may gladly give yourself to completely on one day might not similarly satisfy you on another.

Ultimately, when your vocation ceases to feed your soul, it’s time to find something else. Sometimes you end up coming back to it, and sometimes you discover something even better that you would have never experienced had you let your previous interests decide your future.

Teach yourself what you want and develop the courage to act upon your own will. The pressures to conform to the worldviews of others are irrelevant as you grow comfortable with your aims and desires.

I’m probably not supposed to be here. By small-town standards, I’m supposed to be married, pregnant, living near my parents and, above all, silent about what I want and believe as an individual. But I’m selfish and always have been.

At 16, I remember waking up one morning and deciding that I wanted to create a newspaper for my high school. Because we had such a small staff, I did most of the writing, photography and design on my own. I didn’t get a ton of support for the endeavor. Administrators and students mostly viewed it as a waste of time. But I was selfish, I wanted it, and I was willing to do the work necessary to run it.

As a college student, ask yourself if you’re living according to your own standards or if you’ve sold your free will in exchange for social acceptance. Then, I want you to consider putting yourself first. If necessary, be the bad guy. If necessary, change your mind. Do what you love for the love of doing it, and fight for what you believe is worthy of fighting for. In the end, it’s you who has to live with the decisions you’ve made.

Anna Waters was the visuals editor of The Crimson White.

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